Liqueurs are made of sugar, which is what most people think of when they think of sweet.
It’s also the stuff that gives vanilla and coffee liqueuses their sweet-tart flavor, and it’s the reason they’re often sold in grocery stores.
But in a new study published in the journal Clinical Chemistry, researchers found that even a small amount of sugar actually has a strong effect on the chemical composition of liqueures.
They found that when sugar was added to a range of alcohols — like bourbon and whiskey — it changed the way those liqueors reacted with the air molecules in the air.
This means that the alcohols were able to bind to those sugar molecules, causing them to react with other molecules in a more active way.
“The more sugar that was added, the more reactive the alcohol was to the alcohol, which in turn, means more alcohol was absorbed by the liqueure,” says study author David M. Jorgensen, a chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering.
“It’s an important finding, and we’re hoping that this will help scientists better understand the chemistry of liquors.”
Jorgensen and his colleagues were able find this effect because the liquor they used, pisaurate liqueury, contains alcohols in high concentrations, but it was not completely saturated.
This is because alcohols have a tendency to react chemically with each other, producing a mixture that’s highly reactive.
“It turns out that when we add a little bit of sugar to the lauric acid, it can alter the reaction,” Jorgenson says.
“That is, we were able, in fact, to modify the reaction.”
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants N01HD018865 and R01HD082483) and the Carnegie Mellon University (grant N01AA068398).